Karni Mata Temple, a religious shrine in Rajasthan, India is a temple built in respect of a Hindu Sage, Karni Mata, known to be the incarnation of Goddess Durga. Although it is known for its religious importance in India, for the rest of the world, something else is more fascinating. It is thousands of rats that live in this temple and dine with the visitors, and run over their feet.
This temple was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the early 1900s, as a tribute to Karni Mata. Since it was constructed by a Maharaja, the lavish decoration and the intricate marble design is a mesmerizing sight. However, it may sound like a nightmare to the worshipers from outside the country to know that this beautiful temple is home to 20,000-odd rats.
The legend goes that Goddess Durga, who later incarnated as Karni Mata, was known for her power and triumph over the evil. Once, a child of one of her clansmen died, and he urged the goddess to bring him back to life. However, Yama, the god of death, refused her command saying that the life had been incarnated in another body.
Considering that she could not bring back the life of her clansman’s son, she announced that all her clansman and their relatives would reincarnate as rats, and would always be together in this temple.
This is the reason why the rats of this temple are given highest position after the goddess and are fed before the worshipers eat the holy Prasada. According to Hinduism, the soul never dies, it simple changes body after every death.
These rats reside in the courtyard of the temple. Thousands of rat holes or burrows can be seen in the courtyard. Every worshiper who enters this temple offers food, sweets and milk to these rats. In order to protect these rats from birds of prey, a safety arrangement in form of wires and iron grills is made on the courtyard.
When these rats run across the feet of a worshiper, it is considered as extremely auspicious. Even the sight of a rat is considered to be a sign of good luck for the worshiper. A grand celebration is organized two times every year in this rat temple. Worshipers from all over the country visit the temple during this time to seek the blessings of Goddess Durga.